Can I Have Sex When I'm Sick?

While being sick often means losing a desire to engage in much of your regular routine, having sex may be one of your exceptions. If you simply have the sniffles, whether or not it's advisable to have sex when you are sick typically comes down to if your partner minds getting sick too.

Respiratory illness viruses are passed through droplets and saliva, so they are very likely to make your partner sick if you are kissing, breathing close to each others' faces, coughing, or sneezing while in close contact.

Beyond that, though, if you case is more complicated than a minor cold, or you or your partner have certain risk considerations, taking a break from having sex may be in both of your best interests. Here are some things to consider.

If You Have a Fever

If you're running a fever, you're most likely contagious. Fevers generally make you feel achy and tired, so chances are you probably don't even feel like having sex if your temperature is already elevated.

Researchers have looked into the impact of strenuous exercise (to which sex applies) in people with a fever, and they found that it can be dangerous. It can:

  • Make you sicker
  • Increase the risk of dehydration
  • Raise your temperature to dangerous levels

It's best to wait to have sex until your temperature is back to normal. And even then, make sure you're staying hydrated.

If You Have the Flu

If you have the flu (not just a bad cold), it's probably safest to skip the sex until you're better. Influenza is a serious illness and close, physical contact increases the chances you'll pass it to someone else.

Most people who actually have influenza don't have the energy to have sex anyway. You'll probably enjoy it a lot more if you wait until you're healthy, too.

When You're Contagious

The duration of time in which you can spread your germs to someone else and make them sick can vary depending on the illness.

Most common illnesses are contagious within the first few days of the start of your symptoms, but some can be spread as long as symptoms are present and even before they start or after they have subsided.

The flu is contagious a full 24 hours before symptoms start, and you're contagious for five to seven days after that occurs. That means, even if you're starting to feel better, you may still be able to pass on the virus.

If you have a weak or suppressed immune system, you may be contagious for even longer.

Consider Your Partner's Health

If your partner isn't sick with the same illness you are dealing with, they would probably prefer to avoid getting sick. Discussing the possibility is a good idea even if the healthy partner is the one initiating the intimacy.

Something else to consider is how your illness may affect your partner. If they're in a high-risk group or likely to have more serious symptoms than the average healthy person, taking chances with health isn't worth it. Often, being in this high-risk group warrants a flu shot as a preventive measure.

If you have a chronic health condition that could be impacted by sexual activity, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you're healthy enough for sexual activity—especially if you have an illness like the flu on top of your usual health issues.

A Word From Verywell

Most people aren't interested in having sex when they are sick—or they aren't interested in having sex with someone who is sick. Be sure to let your partner know about your current health status so they can make an informed decision, and do what seems right for protecting you both. And remember that the definition of intimacy involves more than sex. Consider other ways you can connect while you recover.

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  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Flu Spreads. Updated August 27, 2018.